“The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped”
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
“Moving abroad alone”. For some people these words sound super exciting and full of adrenaline, for others they are scary and daunting. Being part of a very international and multicultural team, we can’t be anything other than very supportive towards people that decide to take a leap and move abroad for a short or longer term. We believe in the power of exchanging with different cultures, learning from being alone in a new city, challenging our comfort zones.
So if if you are ready to take on the next adventure and move abroad on your own, here are our top tips to make sure you’ll find your feet in your new home. Don’t let the difficulties bewilder you: living abroad is one of the most enriching experiences you can do in your life.
Make first contact
Before you actually move to your next destination with your life packed in a suitcase, make sure you make contact with people who live or have lived there. Joining and participating in various forums and boards can help you solve a lot of questions and doubts, from which area you should pick to live or which one is the cheapest supermarket in town. It might seem like an outdated corner of the internet, but expat forums are still going strong and users are often more than happy to answer any question, however trivial it might seem.
Most people would probably recommend you the opposite (and we partially agree) but hear us out on this point. Asking for advice to a fellow expat is one thing; only socialising with expats and ignoring the locals is an entirely different story. A fellow expat will have made a very similar journey to you. This is especially true, and worth its weight in gold, when it comes to local bureaucracy. So having a few expats friends is totally fine, and actually may be helpful in times you feel homesick or you need help from someone who is, or has been, in a similar situation.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Speaking of which… This may be the strangest bit of advice, but we recommend getting involved with the local bureaucratic, and sometimes legally necessary, processes of your new country. Most countries, including those in the EU, require foreign nationals to register their residency and their new address (just to give you an example, here is our guide to obtaining an Anmeldung in Berlin). You’ll probably need to do this before you can open a bank account, apply for work or get health insurance. But there’s another, less clinical, side to getting stuck into the paperwork: it helps you settle in much faster. Having all the necessary documents means you’re more likely to feel part of wider society and more at home.
Always talk to strangers
Moving abroad alone can be tough on your social life. As scary as it might seem, meeting new people isn’t that hard. The tried and trusted method is going to a cafe or bar and approaching people who look (and hopefully are) friendly. In our digital age things are little easier. Join a Facebook group for expats in your new city, join a Meetup or other free events, sign up for language exchange: chances are someone in your new city may want to learn your mother tongue, and you’ll need to pick up some words of the main language of the city you are living in if you want to get around easily.
”Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time”
You’ll only have yourself to rely on if you move abroad alone, so it’s best to be prepared if something goes wrong. Make sure your family and friends know your address (yes, you can even let them Google street view where you live!). Keep a contact number in your wallet. If you have medical problems, make sure you know what it’s called in the language of the country you’re in.
It’s important to remember exactly why you’ve moved abroad, whether it be work opportunities, study or simply for new experiences. Keeping a long-term goal in sight – like learning a new language, for example – helps keep things in perspective, especially if you’re homesick.
Life is unpredictable, and you may need or want to move back home sooner or later. But if you are 100% sure of your goal for your new life in a new city try not to go home for least a couple of months after arriving. Adjusting to life in a country, especially when moving abroad alone, can be tough, and you need to give yourself time to acclimatise and settle in. The first few months are about building up enough positive memories and experiences that can sustain you when the homesickness strikes. Flying home every other weekend might make this more difficult. If you’re really missing people back home, invite them to come out and stay with you. Showing friends and family around your new city is very satisfying and it’ll make you feel more at home in your new surroundings.
Are you also an expat and have moved abroad alone? Share your experience in the comments below!